Chapter 5 Verse 17:
What is the “fingerprint” of your flesh? A key word in this passage to express the function of the flesh is “desire.” Our flesh expresses itself through desire. This word should not (based upon its Greek meaning or the context of the passage) be given a strictly sexual or sensual meaning. How would you summarize the two to three desires that most often lead you into sin? We should be able to answer this question as quickly as we give our phone number if we are serious about doing battle with our flesh (in a day of automated memory cell phones and PDA’s that buys some of us a little time). Being able to answer this question will help us feel a bit less “ambushed” when the enemy’s attack comes over the same wall again.
Chapter 5 Verses 19-21
Eight of the fifteen “works of the flesh” mentioned are strictly relational sins (hatred, strife, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, and envy); many of the others are commonly practiced in social contexts. Why would Paul’s list focus so much on the social aspect of life is the Christian life if a personal relationship with God (loaded question, I know)? Remember it was just five verses ago (5:14) that Paul said the whole law is summarized in the command to love your neighbor as yourself. It appears that Paul is trying to bring conviction regarding the well used phrase, “You know that wasn’t really me talking.” When I speak fleshly words it is “me” talking (Luke 6:45). It is “me” following my flesh (see question about characteristic desires). It is “me” saying my desires are more important than the Second Great Commandment. Until we recognize that our words do reveal our heart we will spend most of our time trying to put to death the flesh of our spouse, kids, parents, family, friends, co-workers, boss, and acquaintances. We will miss (or dismiss) the majority of what God intends to do in our lives.
For an interesting read on this subject consider the blog entry “An Interesting Quote from Eugene Peterson on the Trinity” for a page and a half reflection on the role of how our wants, needs, and feelings drive our relationships.
Chapter 5 Verses 24
“A Crucified Flesh”
“Maybe Paul doesn’t really know me after all. My flesh doesn’t seem that dead.” Has that thought crossed your mind as you read this verse? If not, skip Galatians 6, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and read I John 1:8.
I believe there are at least two significant marks of 21st century American Christianity, which account for this struggle. It should be noted every culture in every historic era has and will feed sin in some way.
First, we mistake shame for repentance because we believe we are good people who sometimes do bad things. As I go through my day, it looks like most people have it together. I know more of my “flesh” thoughts than anyone else’s. [Note, some people use this to build pride instead of shame.] From this when I “feel bad” for my shortcomings it is as much embarrassment as it is conviction. I fear not measuring up to social norms and peer expectations more than God’s character. Repentance is remedied at the cross. Shame is remedied (unsuccessfully) with positive self-talk, denial, distractions, shopping sprees, and other shame-building activities.
APPLICATION: Embrace the freedom of repentance and faith over shame.
Second, we believe that we are supposed to crucify our individual flesh individually and therefore fight the majority of our battle in private. The majority of the works of the flesh are social. The fruit of the Spirit are most often expressed socially. Why, then, do we try to engage the crucifying of the flesh and the feeding of the Spirit privately? Read Hebrews 3:12-14. Let it challenge how you seek to live out Galatians 5:16-26.
APPLICATION: The courage (faith) to live in the light (Body of Christ) is a key way God drives the darkness (flesh) from our heart (guiding desire).